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Students with Learning Disabilities:. What Do They Need To Prepare For College? Leisa Pickering, Ph.D. University of Kentucky and Debra Mato, M.Ed. College of Mount St Joseph. Agenda. Legal Differences at College Level Documentation Guidelines Reasonable Accommodations

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students with learning disabilities

Students with Learning Disabilities:

What Do They Need To Prepare For College?

Leisa Pickering, Ph.D.

University of Kentucky


Debra Mato, M.Ed.

College of Mount St Joseph


Legal Differences at College Level

Documentation Guidelines

Reasonable Accommodations

Student Responsibilities

How Students Can Prepare In High School

Campus Differences – Finding the Right Fit


High School:

The Education for All Handicapped Children Act (P.L. 94-142) was signed into law in 1975.

It was updated and renamed the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA, 1990 and 1997).

IDEA was Reauthorized in November 2004

  • It significantly limits what evaluation data schools must provide
  • High School personnel are no longer required to do transition assessment
  • Secondary schools are moving to more functional data. (Response to Intervention, Curriculum-based assessments)
according to idea 2004
According to IDEA 2004:

A SUMMARY OF PERFORMANCE will be required – “a local educational agency shall provide the child with a summary of the child’s academic achievement and functional performance, which shall include recommendations on how to assist the child in meeting the child’s postsecondary goals.” Sec. 614c (5).

  • IDEA guarantees that all children, regardless of disability, are entitled to a free, appropriate public education in the least restrictive environment.
  • IDEA applies only to individuals between the ages of 3 and 21 (or until high school graduation) who are receiving special education or related services.
  • Under IDEA, the responsibility for initiating services is on the school system and parents.

Colleges and Universities:

  • Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act (1973)
  • Americans with Disabilities (ADA, 1990)

state individuals must meet the following eligibility criteria:

    • have a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more of the major life functions;
    • have a history of such impairment; or
    • be regarded as having such an impairment; and
    • be deemed as “otherwise qualified.”
post secondary legal obligations
Post-secondary legal obligations:
  • Colleges and Universities cannot exclude, deny, or discriminate against otherwise qualified individuals on the basis of their disability.
  • Post-secondary institutions are required to make reasonable modifications in academic requirements to ensure that those requirements do not discriminate.
  • Post-secondary institutions retain the right to determine disability documentation requirements and criteria for eligibility for reasonable modifications.

Students with disabilities are entitled to a “free and appropriate public education.”

Students are qualified for public education by being of age and having a disability.


No one is entitled… Equal access is the goal.

This is a Civil Right.

“Otherwise qualified” means the student must meet all entrance and academic requirements regardless of disability.

reasonable modifications
Reasonable Modifications:
  • Accommodations must be supported by the documentation of the student’s disability.
  • A program may deny a requested accommodation if it can demonstrate that the request would:
      • Fundamentally alter the program
      • Lower standards
      • Be unduly burdensome financially or administratively
eligibility process
Eligibility Process:
  • Students have a responsibility to self-identify
  • Students have to provide documentation of a disability
  • The documentation provided has to meet the college’s policy guidelines
  • Determination of eligibility and reasonable accommodations is based on the documentation

With Reauthorization of IDEA, 2004, Summary of Performance (SOP) based on response to intervention and observations becomes evaluation of specific learning disabilities.


Documentation Guidelines for learning disorders are based on the DSM-IV.

A Summary of Performance can only be considered supplementary to a current psychological assessment.


According to the DSM-IV

(Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fourth Ed., 1994),

“Learning Disorders are diagnosed when the individual’s achievement on individually administered, standardized tests in reading, mathematics, or written expression is substantially below that expected for age, schooling, and level of intelligence.”

  • Certified/Licensed Psychologist
  • Comprehensive Standardized Adult Measures

(Not brief screeners)

    • Cognitive assessment
    • Achievement assessment
    • Information Processing analysis
  • Report complete standardized scores
  • Indication of substantial limitation to learning
comprehensive standardized tests
Comprehensive Standardized Tests

Approved Cognitive Measures:

  • The Wechsler Adult Intelligence Scale-III

(WAIS-III) is the preferred instrument.

  • The Woodcock-Johnson III: Tests of Cognitive Abilities

Not approved cognitive measures:

    • The Wechsler Intelligence Scale for Children (WISC version)
    • The Slosson Intelligence Test
    • The Kaufman Brief Intelligence Test
Approved Achievement Tests:
  • Woodcock-Johnson III: Tests of Achievement (WJ-ACH)
  • Wechsler Individual Achievement Test (WIAT)

Not approved achievement test:

    • Wide Range Achievement Test (WRAT-R)
ACT / SAT in high school
  • GRE
  • LSAT
  • MCAT
  • GMAT
educational testing services documentation criteria from website www ets org
Educational Testing Services Documentation CriteriaFrom website
  • clearly state the diagnosed disability or disabilities
  • describe the functional limitations resulting from the disability or disabilities
  • be current — i.e., completed within the last 5 years for LD, last 6 months for psychiatric disabilities, or last 3 years for ADHD and all other disabilities
  • include complete educational, developmental, and medical history relevant to the disability for which testing accommodations are being requested
  • include a list of all test instruments used in the evaluation report and relevant subtest scores used to document the stated disability (this requirement does not apply to physical or sensory disabilities of a permanent or unchanging nature)
  • describe the specific accommodations requested
  • adequately support each of the requested testing accommodation(s)
  • be typed or printed on official letterhead and be signed by an evaluator qualified to make the diagnosis (include information about license or certification and area of specialization).
areas considered in developing individual accommodations
Areas Considered in Developing Individual Accommodations:

No “one size fits all” approach

  • College Classroom
  • Testing
  • Preparation Outside of the Classroom
  • Academic Program Requirements
reasonable classroom accommodations
Reasonable Classroom Accommodations
  • Recommend preferential seating
  • Provide advanced copies of overheads, power-point presentations, board notes
  • Student tape-records lecture
  • Student uses lap-top computer for notes
reasonable testing accommodations
Reasonable Testing Accommodations:
  • Alternative low distraction testing room away from whole class
  • Sound suppression earplugs or headphones
  • Use of a sound screen to produce white noise
  • Use of laptop computer for essay exams.
reasonable test time accommodations
Reasonable Test Time Accommodations:
  • Extended time on all written tests and exams
    • Time and one-half extended time (50% more time)
    • Double time (100% more time)
  • Scheduled Breaks
reasonable test format accommodations
Reasonable Test Format Accommodations:
  • Present test orally
    • Have a Reader
    • Present the exam tape-recorded
    • Use computer software on exams with read-aloud capabilities
  • Accept oral responses
    • Have a Scribe
    • Allow use of computer software for voice-to-text
  • Allow the student to write directly on the test, rather than computer-scored answer sheet
preparation outside of the classroom
Preparation Outside of the Classroom:
  • Academic Support Center
  • Books in audio or digital format
  • Learning Strategies
  • Individual Tutoring
  • Career Counseling
reasonable program accommodations
Reasonable Program Accommodations:
  • Early priority registration
  • Reduced course load
  • Flexibility with attendance policy
  • Negotiate arrangements for due dates on projects and long-term assignments
  • Course substitution
accessing post secondary disability services
Accessing Post-Secondary Disability Services
  • Contact Disability Services Office and request policies and procedures for registering
  • Find out what documentation the College requires
  • Ask about types of resources are available at the College
  • Determine what are considered reasonable academic accommodations at that College
Students have a responsibility to self-identify and provide documentation of a disability
  • Documentation of a disability is reviewed and stored confidentially in one office on campus
  • The documentation provided has to meet the college’s policy guidelines
  • Determination of eligibility and reasonable accommodations is based on the documentation and student interviews
On most campuses, faculty letters are provided to the student which state that the student should receive a specified list of reasonable accommodations
  • It is the student’s responsibility to provide the letter to each faculty and discuss the accommodations
  • On most campuses, it is the faculty’s responsibility to provide the student with the accommodations once the letter has been received

The school system is responsible for identifying a student with a disability.

School officials and parents request disability services.

Student with parent/ educator team decides which courses to take.


The student is responsible to initiate identity as having a disability.

The student requests disability services.

Student decides what courses to take.


Everyone is informed about a student’s placement. Teachers have an idea about the student’s needs before the student enters the classroom.


The student must initiate all actions regarding accommodation with each professor, for each course, every semester.

Students have a right to choose whether or not to use accommodations.


Parents are the legal guardians and advocates for their children’s educational decisions and have a right to review all educational records.

Students have little or no privacy.


Under FERPA*, at 18 years of age students have the right to make educational decisions and must provide consent for disclosure of their educational records, even to their parents.

The college is obligated to protect a student’s confidentiality.

*(FERPA : Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act.)


Attributes to Develop_ From Transition of Students with Disabilities to Postsecondary Education: A guide for High School Educators, , 2008.

  • Positive attitude towards successful outcome
  • Realistic expectations about level of difficulty and effort required
  • Strong self-advocate

Students need to understand their disabilities and what strategies work for them in high school

  • Accept responsibility for their own success – be self-advocates
  • Take a high school curriculum that will prepare them to meet college standards
    • Take the toughest courses they can
    • Develop good study skills
    • Develop good reading and writing abilities

Develop critical thinking skills

  • Learn time management skills
  • Acquire good computer skills
  • Discover and practice using Assistive Technology
  • Research postsecondary education
  • Visit campuses and include the Disability Service Offices in the visit. Find the campus that feels right.

The most important concept to grasp is that the student with a disability needs ALL the same competencies as any other college student PLUS whatever special skills or strategies are needed to cope with his/her disability. It is better to start acquiring skills in an environment he knows well, (i.e. high school) rather than to wait until he arrives on the college campus. Going to college comfortable with oneself and one’s needs can make the difference between success and failure.Effective College Planning: 8th Ed. (2002) WNY Collegiate Consortium of Disability Awareness

in the college transition
In the College Transition:
  • Encourage students to participate in advanced summer college preparatory programs or freshman orientation classes
  • Students need to get involved on campus during their first year
  • Stress to students to learn the resources available on campus and use them
finding the right fit
Finding the Right Fit
  • All students have choices to make:
    • Size (small, medium, large)
    • Location (rural, suburban, urban, distance from, distance learning)
    • Commuter/ Residence Hall
    • Cost
    • What do they wish to accomplish
    • Students with disabilities have even more choices
finding the right fit42
Finding the Right Fit
  • Goals of Post-Secondary
      • Certificate or Diploma
      • Associate Degree
      • Bachelors Degree
      • Graduate and Professional Degrees
  • Options in Post-Secondary
      • Community or Technical College
      • On-line Distance Learning
      • Colleges and Universities
finding the right fit43
Finding the Right Fit
  • All colleges are required to offer services to students with documented disabilities
  • HOW they do that is the question
    • Level of student independence, level of institutional support & resources must be identified for each student & matched
    • If health services are necessary, student needs to identify those
types of resources
Types of Resources
  • Tutoring
    • Not an accommodation. Section 504 regulations say that tutoring is a personal service or responsibility.
    • If College does not offer tutoring for all students, it does not have to provide tutoring for students with disabilities.
    • Availability of tutoring for all students / group or individual
    • Availability of individual tutoring for specific subjects of difficulty
  • Counseling
    • Availability of mental health counseling
    • Support for personal problems
two college models
Two College Models

Service Model - The Learning Center

Program Model – Project EXCEL

Fee-based program for students with SLD or ADD/ADHD

Intensive supports

Professional tutors; EXC 103 – a class just for freshmen; weekly Time management; Study Tables; Project lab

Assistance with academic accommodations for students with documented disabilities

  • Services are available at no cost to all students
    • Tutoring – usually peer
    • Math Center – one-to-one assistance in math courses from Basic Algebra through calculus
    • The Writing center – one-to-one assistance
  • Assistance with academic accommodations for students with documented disabilities

ACCESS to Postsecondary

College Planning for Students with Learning

Self-Advocacy for College

Students with Disabilities Preparing for Postsecondary Education: Know Your Rights and

Transition of Students with Disabilities to Postsecondary Education:A Guide for High School